The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) has two cutterhead dredges and two hopper dredges under contract for channel maintenance on the Mississippi River Ship Channel in the area of Southwest Pass. The MVN and Manson Construction have confirmed that the hopper dredge GLENN EDWARDS is expected to commence dredging in Southwest Pass on March 20, 2020. The most deficient reaches of the Ship Channel according to the latest surveys are along the Jetty End, at the Head of Passes and at Cubits Gap.
SOUTWEST PASS (SWP) TRANSIT RESTRICTIONS:
The Bar Pilots and Federal Pilots reduced their maximum draft recommendation to 42 feet (freshwater) on February 1, 2020. This maximum draft restriction remains in place for all vessels transiting Southwest Pass and represents the controlling draft for the Mississippi River Ship Channel. Pilots continue to report extensive shoaling as the latest crest on the Carrollton Gauge of 17.08 feet at 0800 hours on March 7, 2020 has passed and stage levels are slowly receding. Long range forecasts indicate a slow fall to 13.5 feet on April 9, 2020 although several models indicate the potential of another significant rise based on estimated precipitation across the Mississippi River Basin.
The Crescent River Port Pilots Association’s maximum freshwater draft of 46 feet remains in effect as implemented on February 7, 2020. The Crescent Pilots reduction is based on shoaling in their route in the area of Cubits Gap.
HOPPER DREDGE(S) IN THE AREA OF SOUTHWEST PASS (SWP):
NEWPORT: The hopper dredge NEWPORT (Manson Construction) continues dredging on assignment at the Head of Passes (Mile 0.5 Above Head of Passes [AHP] to Mile 0.5 Below Head of Passes [BHP]). The hopper dredge is working under the Gulf Coast Regional Hopper Dredge Contract 2020. This is the first utilization of the Regional contract which allows a hopper dredge to respond to shoaling across channels in both the Mobile and New Orleans USACE Districts. The NEWPORT began dredging under the first Gulf Coast Regional Hopper Dredge Contract 2020 on February 1, 2020.
GLENN EDWARDS: The Southwest Pass Hopper Dredge Rental Contract #13-2019 was awarded to Manson Construction. Originally the hopper dredge BAYPORT was expected to respond to this contract. However, the BAYPORT has been delayed in the shipyard and the GLENN EDWARDS will respond to this contract and is expected to start dredging in Southwest Pass on March 20, 2020.
GOVERNMENT HOPPER DREDGE(S) IN SOUTHWEST PASS (SWP):
WHEELER: The MVN hopper dredge WHEELER is expected to begin dredging in Southwest Pass by April 10th under Readiness Exercise #1-2020 after completing shipyard repairs.
CUTTERHEAD DREDGE(S) IN SOUTHWEST PASS (SWP):
E.W. ELLEFSEN: The cutterhead dredge E.W. ELLEFSEN (Weeks Marine) continues dredging at Mile 3.36 BHP and is working on assignment on the western side of the channel from Mile 2.5 BHP to Mile 3.4 BHP. The cutterhead is expected to complete this assignment by this weekend and move upriver to start on assignment in the area of the West Bay Diversion (Mile 4.7 AHP to Mile 2.5 AHP western side). The cutterhead dredge began dredging in SWP on February 4, 2020.
CAPTAIN FRANK: Weeks Marine’s cutterhead dredge CAPTAIN FRANK is dredging at Mile 6.92 BHP and working on assignment from Mile 6.8 BHP to Mile 8.2 BHP on the eastern side of the channel. The cutterhead commenced dredging in Southwest Pass on January 24, 2020 under Southwest Pass Cutterhead Dredge Rental Contract #3-2019.
CUTTERHEAD DREDGE(S) IN THE HOPPER DREDGE DISPOSAL AREA (HDDA):
E.W. ELLEFSEN: The cutterhead dredge E.W. ELLEFSEN (Weeks Marine) will return to the HDDA project to beneficially place material in the Pass A’ Loutre Wildlife Management Area (PALWMA) upon completion of the emergency dredging in SWP. The cutterhead was scheduled to perform dredging in the HDDA but is being utilized to respond to the emergency channel conditions on the Ship Channel first. The cutterhead dredges have already beneficially utilized approximately 13 mcy of material from the HDDA and restored roughly 1,040 acres. When this project is completed later this year, approximately 1,200 acres will have been restored in the PALWMA.
The Carrollton Gauge (New Orleans) reading at 1200 hours today was 16.19 feet, with a 24-hour change of – 0.14 feet.
There are multiple reaches of the channel that are deficient and based on past experience there is sufficient material to justify up to three additional hopper dredges, without additional hopper dredges the controlling draft could indeed be reduced further. The arrival of the GLENN EDWARDS and the WHEELER will be key to maintaining or restoring the deficient channel.